Scotland’s title race has crowd-pulling power

Celtic’s dominance is being tested by Rangers and a chasing pack, which should help bring the football fans to you

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a title race.

And we are not talking about the two-horse battle that looks like it could go all the way to the end of the season in the English Premier League.

The competition in Scotland is likely to be the closest it has been for years.

Celtic have dominated in recent times, winning the last seven league titles on the bounce.

But this season they are under serious pressure from not only their revitalised Old Firm rivals Rangers, but also from a chasing pack that includes Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Hearts.

If one of those could break through we are looking at a story approaching the scale of Leicester’s title success in 2016.

For in the 129-year history of the top league in Scotland it has only been won by teams other than Celtic or Rangers 19 times.”

And you have to go back to Alex Ferguson’s triumph with Aberdeen in 1985 for the last time that happened.

Could we be about to witness history being made in Scotland? The good news is that over the next few weeks we have some big games on BT Sport that could help us get a little closer to finding out:

Wednesday January 23

Kilmarnock v Rangers, 7.45pm

Friday February 1

Kilmarnock v Hearts, 7.45pm

Sunday February 17

Motherwell v Hearts, 12.15pm

Friday February 22

Dundee v Hamilton, 7.45pm

Sunday February 24

Hamilton v Rangers, 12.15pm

Friday March 8

Hibernian v Rangers, 7.45pm

Saturday April 6

Hearts v Hibernian, 12.30pm

We often show English and Scottish football at the same time. Usually the English football gets more interest but now more people are interested in what is happening up here.”

The good news for pubs and clubs is that the tightness at the top of the league has been driving more interest in Scottish football.

Kev McGhee, licensee at The Diggers near Hearts Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh, has seen crowds grow for games.

He said: “We often show English and Scottish football at the same time. Usually the English football gets more interest but now more people are interested in what is happening here. The football might not be as good, but the drama is there this year.

“People might not really believe it, but there’s some hope Hearts could do it. If not people would love to see Kilmarnock win and break the Old Firm’s stranglehold. One of those two is usually on the TV so people are watching to see if they’ll lose!”

We are seeing some people we have never seen before for Scottish football, so the Kilmarnock V Rangers game should be good.”

It’s been a similar story at Jarvies Inn in Glasgow.

The pub’s Elena Graham said: “Old Firm games are always very good for us and we always get people in when Celtic and Rangers are playing. We are seeing some people we have never seen before for Scottish football, so the Kilmarnock Rangers game should be good.”

St Andrews is of course more famous for another sport but The Criterion is seeing its fair share of football fans as well as its usual golfing tourists.

Pub owner Steve Latto said: “There’s definitely more interest in it this year, especially with the Old Firm rivalry. There was an Old Firm game at New Year and we were extremely busy.

“We don’t have any allegiance to any particular club so we see all fans in here.”

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